Ram Rumps and New Year's Resolutions
by Dean Rieck
New Year's Day is one of the oldest and most universal celebrations. It began about four thousand years ago in Babylonia, where it was celebrated in late March and lasted for 11 days. Despite the many centuries that have passed, much of what they did is very familiar eating and drinking themselves silly, staging elaborate parades, and yes, even making resolutions.
So what were the two most popular resolutions back then? To pay off debts and return borrowed tools. Those are still pretty good personal resolutions, but what about business resolutions? Well, I don't know that they made any. I only know that since business back then was largely agricultural, they would rub the rump of a beheaded ram against the temple walls to insure a good crop in the new year.
Now I doubt that ram rump rubbing will have a significant effect on your direct marketing results, so may I suggest a few practical ways to insure better business next year:
- Start testing carefully and regularly. You should establish clear, specific goals for every promotion. Run statistically valid tests. Track your results meticulously. Analyze your numbers and use your results to determine creative strategy. I am continually flabbergasted by the number of businesses that sabotage their success by testing haphazardly or not at all.
- Stop shortchanging the creative budget. You've spent a fortune researching and developing your product, you've bought the best lists, and you're prepared to make a powerful offer. So why are you suddenly a tightwad when it comes to hiring your creative team? Pay the price and get the best.
- Start talking to customers. You may know age, income, gender, and other basic customer demographics, but can you describe your ideal customer? What about his concerns? Fears? Attitudes? Objections? Complaints? Lifestyle? Affiliations? You should be able to paint a picture of your customer that is clear and specific. Most businesses think about a survey or study, but few actually carry through. Be one of the few.
- Stop using copy as a crutch. Powerful words can lead to powerful results, but don't expect verbal magic to salvage shoddy products, overcome bad lists, or camouflage stingy offers. Let me clue you in on a secret from the front lines: Great advertising starts with great copy. And great copy starts with great products.
- Start collecting testimonials. Don't just file a few lame blurbs that drift in. Create an active, ongoing system for collecting as many testimonials and success stories as you can get. You can use them for inserts, headlines, teasers, letter stories, and dozens of other promotional applications. Testimonials are potent psychological triggers. Use them.
- Stop stealing copy. We should all learn from successful advertising. But simply lifting headlines, letter openings, and other copy is a sign that you simply don't know what you're doing and that you're looking for a magic formula. If you don't know how to write an ad, hire someone who does. If I see one more "Got Milk?" rip-off, I'll snap. "Got tech stocks?" "Got printer cartridges?" "Got white zinfandel?" Pu-leeze!
- Start developing some freebies. Offering free stuff is the best way to generate inquiries and sales leads, but freebies also can be useful for premiums, gifts, handouts, testimonial incentives, etc. You should have a freebie ready to go when you need it a booklet, brochure, survey, sample, catalog, sales sheet, whatever. "Free" is one of the two most powerful words in the language, and a freebie lets you use it. (What is the other word? "You," of course.)
- Stop hiding the guarantee. Make it visible. Flaunt it. Add it to your sales letter's call to action. Highlight it as a box in your brochure. Feature it on the order form. Turn it into a stand-alone insert. Your guarantee is proof that you are reputable. It lowers your customer's perceived risk and can, therefore, boost your response but only if your customer can see it. After all, what are you afraid of? A sudden flood of returns? If you think that, you have bigger problems to deal with. So deal with them before you advertise.
If none of this works and you're desperate, you might want to go ahead and try ram rump rubbing. It worked for the Babylonians. Maybe it'll work for you. Hey, it's worth a test.
Copyright © 2001 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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